I chaired a meeting yesterday where eight agency leaders discussed their approach to flexible working and distributed businesses. Few had developed a very evolved model and all were responding to a change they see around them, but in often different ways. Broadly, all were looking to understand what their peers were thinking and doing, and to start forming a framework around which they can start to develop a strategy. There will be more to come on this, but I wanted to share my broad impressions whilst the session is still really fresh in my mind.
1) Distributed not just flexible. It became clear that there is a big distinction between flexible working and having a distributed workforce. They are highly connected, but it’s helpful to recognize them as distinct.
2) Working anywhere not working from home. Some of the challenges leaders are facing seem to stem from them framing their thinking as either “in the office” or “working at home”. Again, a shift to thinking about working from anywhere seems to help clarify the challenges and opportunities.
3) Culture change is good. A lot of chat focused on culture yesterday, but what became clear is that we have an opportunity to change agency cultures to reflect wider cultural shifts which in turn could bring previously untapped talent into agencies.
4) Challenge the paradigms. Sometimes observations started with “But for XYZ, we have to be in the office”. The businesses that spot these cues and challenge the received wisdom will evolve more quickly and more successfully.
5) Give everyone their ideal working environment. It’s so obvious it hurts. But as a guiding principle, it’s hard to beat.
We covered a huge amount of ground in a highly productive session (I’m still writing up the notes and trying to marshal the conclusions to share with the contributors later). People shared openly and candidly – and I think we all gained as a group. We’ll be reconvening in a month to see if anyone has made progress and to compare experiences. I can’t wait.